Graduate Programs

Accredited university programs, usually lasting two to four years, grant either a Masters of Arts or Science in Conservation or a Masters in an allied field (typically Archeology, Historic Preservation, Art History, or Library Science) with a Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation. Although the specific degree awarded varies from program to program, these credentials are considered to be equivalent. There are numerous international programs, which vary markedly in length and content. Admission requirements typically include substantial coursework in chemistry, art, and art history; internships and/or work experience in conservation labs; and a portfolio of projects demonstrating manual dexterity, such as artwork or conservation treatments. 

Career Path: A graduate degree from an accredited university is the basic credential required for most professional conservator positions. However, many positions will require additional work experience, which can be gained through post-graduate fellowships, project-based positions, and temporary contract work.

Find an Opportunity: U.S. graduate conservation programs

Institution Location Degree Length
 Buffalo State  College     Buffalo, NY     M.A. in Art Conservation with a certificate of advanced  study in art conservation
3 years
 Columbia University     New York,  NY     M.S. in Historic Preservation 2 years
 NYU/IFA      New York,  NY     M.S. in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works  and M.A. in the History of Art and Archaeology 4 years 
 UCLA/Getty     Los  Angeles, CA     M.A. in Conservation of Archaeological and  Ethnographic Materials
3 years
 University of  Arizona     Tucson, AZ   
 M.A./M.S. in Related Course of Study and/or Graduate  Certificate in Heritage Conservation 1-3 years
 University of  Pennsylvania      Philadelphia,  PA     M.S. in Historic Preservation and Advanced Certificate  in Architectural Conservation 2.5 years 
 University of Texas     Austin, TX     M.S. in Historic Preservation 2 years 
 Winterthur/University   of Delaware     Winterthur,  DE     M.S. in Art Conservation
 PhD in Conservation Research & Historic Preservation
4*/3 years 


  • Undergraduate Coursework - Prerequisites for admission to graduate conservation programs include undergraduate coursework in science, the humanities (art history, anthropology, and archaeology), and studio art. Some schools consider previous working experience and gained expertise in conservation practice. Specific admission requirements differ and potential candidates are encouraged to contact the programs directly for details on prerequisites, application procedures, and program curriculum. With careful planning, an undergraduate curriculum can be tailored to satisfy the academic requirements of these graduate programs.
  • Science - One full year each of general and organic chemistry with laboratory work is typically required. These courses should usually be freshman and sophomore level requirements for chemistry and biology majors. Supplemental studies recommended, but not always required, often include biology, biochemistry, geology, materials science, physics, and mathematics.
  • Humanities - Broad based coursework in art history, anthropology, and archaeology must cover various cultural traditions and historical periods. At least four to six courses are typically required. Formal course work in drawing, painting, photography, and three-dimensional design (including, but not limited to, ceramics, metalworking, sculpture, and textile art) may be required. Upon application to a graduate conservation program, candidates are expected to present a portfolio demonstrating manual dexterity, knowledge of techniques, and an understanding and affinity for art materials.
  • Languages - Reading proficiency in one or two foreign languages may be required.
  • Additional Coursework - Courses in museum studies, drafting, and library science may also be recommended.
  • Professional Experience - In addition to coursework, candidates to graduate programs are strongly encouraged to have had some conservation experience. Internships, volunteer, apprenticeship, or paid work in regional, institutional, or private conservation laboratories is appropriate. Involvement in supervised collection care projects such as collection assessments, rehousing, and exhibition design, as well as examination and treatment of individual artifacts is encouraged. Above all, applicants are expected to be thoroughly acquainted with conservation as a career option and to have a fundamental knowledge of conservation philosophy, ethics, and basic working procedures.
Many programs also require a personal interview in which candidates are usually asked to present a portfolio of art and conservation project work that demonstrates manual dexterity and familiarity with techniques and materials.

A limited number of Ph.D. programs have also been established for advanced study in conservation to prepare conservators with an interest in pursuing research in conservation or fields related to conservation.

New to the field?
Learn more about conservation from AIC’s Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN)